Snow and Avalanche Center 2020 Avalanche News

Caltrans adds firepower to deal with avalanches near Carson Pass

News - December 15, 2020

SOUTH LAKE TAHOE, Calif. — Caltrans is adding some firepower in efforts to control avalanches near Carson Pass.

The Caltrans District 10 Caples Lake crew has been installing powerful LoCat guns adjacent California State Route 88 and will use them to mitigate potential avalanches in an avalanche zone.

“We had the LoCat cannons serviced earlier this year and we’re re-mounting them along SR-88 for this season,” Caples Lake Maintenance Supervisor Billy Newman said in a press release. “These cannons are so heavy that we need to fly them to the remote, elevated platforms.”

LoCats are air-powered and shoot projectiles into the mountain, where they detonate and alleviate avalanche risks. The cannon itself weighs 600 pounds, and another piece weighs 300 pounds.

Newman and Avalanche Supervisor Rob Bickor are routinely testing the snow in their bid to stay ahead of Mother Nature. When they recognize the indicators are present, they put the LoCat into play, officials said.

The Caples Lake crews use the LoCat cannons in conjunction with the Gazex avalanche control system and hand-held charges to make sure the threat is handled and that motorists may safely pass through.

A typical avalanche control effort would include alternately firing the LoCat and Gazex cannons, and then locating the remaining spots and using hand-held charges to break up the snow packs.

“The accuracy of the LoCat makes it a great asset for avalanche control,” Newman said. “We already have targeting coordinates set, so when we target a spot of the mountain, that’s the spot we hit.”

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